Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago - Julia D. Cowles

A Roman Girl

The little tunic was very simply made, but it was new work to Terentia.

"Are you sure it will be nice enough for Livia to wear?" Terentia asked her mother, anxiously.

"Yes," replied Gaia, "I am sure it will be if you make it as carefully as you wove the cloth."

"What makes you smile at me so often?" questioned Livia, looking up from her favorite clay dolly, which she was drawing about the room in its little cart.

"Oh, by and by I shall have a surprise for you," said Terentia, "but you must wait and ask no questions."

Livia looked as though she would like to ask a great many, but she said no more.

Presently she asked, "Mother, may I go into the garden to play?" And Gaia answered, "Yes, and Terentia has sewed long enough now. She may go with you."

The children loved to be in the garden with its beautiful flowers and its sparkling fountain.

"Let us play with the ball," said Livia, and then she added, "Oh, here comes Lucius. Perhaps he will play, too."

After a while Livia grew tired of running after the ball which her little hands found it hard to hold, so she sat down by the edge of the fountain and called her doves, who came and perched upon her shoulder.

"Oh, see," laughed Livia. "The dove is trying to eat the beads of my necklace."

"There, there, naughty dove," said Terentia, "those are not good to eat. They are to keep the evil eye away from our little Livia."

The necklace, at which the dove kept pecking, was made from odd and beautiful beads. Some were in the shape of coins, some were tiny images, others were shaped like axes and swords, while the most beautiful were in the form of half-moons, or of flowers. These quaint little objects were made from many kinds of metal and stone, and they were strung and worn as a necklace.

The beads had been given to Livia when she was eight days old. At that time she had been named, a sacrifice had been offered to the gods, and there had been great rejoicing and merry-making.

While she was a baby, the little objects had pleased her by their bright colors and by the noise they made when jingled together. Now that she was older, she still wore them, as they were looked upon as a charm which kept the evil eye of the gods from her.

A little later Gaia came into the garden, and Livia soon climbed upon her lap.

"I wish you would tell us a story, Mother," said Terentia.

Gaia thought for a moment and then she said, "Your father has told you the story of Scaevola, the Left-Handed, and it has reminded me of another story connected with Lars Porsena; but this one is about a girl.

"Do you remember the statue of a girl, mounted upon a horse, that stands at the top of the Sacred Way?"

"Yes," replied Terentia, "and her name is Cloelia, but I do not know the story about her."

"Cloelia," said Gaia, "had been taken from home, with many other girls and boys, by Lars Porsena. He had been fighting against the Romans, and had defeated them. Then he had made some of the noblest of the Romans give up their sons and daughters as hostages of war, before he would take his soldiers away from their city. He thought that if he took these boys and girls away with his army, the Romans would not dare to offend him, for fear that he might be cruel to their children.

"Lars Porsena went into camp some distance from Rome, on the opposite side of the river Tiber. Then it was that Cloelia formed a daring plan. She, and several of her companions who were strong and brave, swam across the river at night, and made their way back to Rome on foot. The current of the river is swift, and it required great endurance to carry out their plan, but they reached Rome safely.

"However, the brave girl and her companions were to meet with a bitter disappointment, for the Romans decided that, although they admired the courage which they had shown, they must be sent back to Lars Porsena's camp, for they had agreed with the king that he should have these boys and girls as hostages of war, if he would take his army away from Rome."

[Illustration] from Our Little Roman Cousin by Julia D. Cowles


"Oh, what a pity!" exclaimed Terentia.

"It did, indeed, seem so," said Gaia, "but the Romans knew that it would not be honorable to keep them, and so they were taken back to Lars Porsena's camp.

"But our story turns out well, after all," she added, "for when Lars Porsena saw how just and honorable the Romans were, and how courageous Cloelia and her companions had proved themselves, he called before him all the Romans that he had taken as hostages. Then he told Cloelia that she might choose one-half of their number, and he would send them back to Rome, free.

"Cloelia was as wise as she was brave, and she chose the younger half of the Romans, and they returned to the city with great honor.

"At the close of the war, the statue which you have seen in the Sacred Way, was erected in memory of Cloelia's brave deed."

"That is a splendid story, Mother," said Terentia. "I am glad that there are brave Roman girls, as well as brave Roman boys."

"Come here, Livia," called Terentia later that afternoon, and when Livia came she slipped off the little tunic which Livia had been wearing, and put on, instead, the new one which she had just finished.

"It is for you, little sister," she said happily. "I made it all myself, from the soft, white wool of the sheep."

Livia hugged Terentia, and then danced about to express her delight, and when her father returned to the house she ran to him and showing him the soft, new garment, she exclaimed, "Terentia made it for me; every bit herself!"

Gaius smiled and praised Terentia, till she blushed with happiness.

"You will be a Roman matron like your mother one of these days," he said. And Terentia felt that he could give her no greater praise than that.